Wednesday 15 April 2009

Student mindset, Pedagogy and Technology

I read an interesting post by Ulrich Schrader in response to Timbuckteeth's post on E-learning 3.0. I have responded to the original post by Steve Wheeler recently and on the subject of Mindsets, pedagogy and technology here I go again...

Academic freedom allows academics to choose or subscribe to whatever pedagogy they think works for them and their students. Some of the options to choose from are:

  • the "teacher at centre of Teaching and Learning" approach or
  • the "student at centre" approach or
  • the "network at centre" approach or
  • the "content at centre" approach or
  • a mix of above for some reason or
  • any other approach

What technology? What approach/pedagogy?

  • Static Web sites (Web 1.0) is very suitable for Instructions/Content - "teacher and their generated content at centre" - behaviourist/cognitive.
  • Collaborative technologies (read Web 2.0) are highly suitable for Constructivist and or Socio-Constructivist pedagogy -"student/network at centre".
  • Personalised learning (Semantic Web or Web 3.0?) - "relevant content/ activity at centre" - cognitive
What student mindset?
To elaborate this I present some of the helpful comments from my students:

  • "A simple lecture on this topic would have been enough"
  • "The best part of this unit was the lecture notes/handouts"
  • "Lectures and some discussions with peers helped me broaden my thinking"
  • "I like to be given some really good reading list, like different chapters from different books by different authors on same subject. Quality content that helps me find out the meaning of things myself."
  • "for me the learning environment i.e. being in the company of other students and academics is of importance."

You can actually map these back to different pedagogical theories that I have used.

The above listed comments still do not do justice to the variety of students that is out there. Most academics choose the pedagog(y)ies that they can implement. Or those that cater to the needs of the majority. Inevitably there will be students for whom the chosen approach is not relevant. What about such students? We know well that all pedagogies have their own place and own audience. Therefore, a blend of pedagogies is not a bad thing.

So far...

Higher Education has traditionally been majoritarily behaviourist (Taught Courses-Teacher/their content at centre).

It is, however, changing rapidly anyway. A lot of academics now use the Constructivist approach as their chosen approach (allowing the student to be at the centre). Problem Based Learning (PBL) has gained popularity in many subject areas.

Student managed to learn through lectures. So WHY change?

I do PBL alongside lectures. Why?:

  1. As it allows a change from a "teacher centred approach" to a "student centered approach",
  2. Due to a top down initiative in my department that introduced PBL (I was starting my career then and I joined in),
  3. As technologies like the Web 2.0 Technologies aided me in achieving this easily.
Ok, Lectures plus some constructivist work, WHY change yet again?

Well they say change is the only constant (sorry about the cliche).

I would like to think that the change should not come without some benefits. Someone smart out there with their brilliant new idea should not have an easy sail even if you are generally quick to latch on to new ideas.

If I can reach those students to whom my efforts do not do any good currently then you've got me. If the change is simple then even better. If it embraces (or replaces with a good reason) what I have been doing so far then ultimate. I am beginning to sound like I have a limit to accept change. But that's not true. I am all for it if it meets any of my conditions above. People like to put their stamp on things, in doing that they try to replace old with new. Innovation should build upon the good practice that is ongoing.

If the semantic web can help my students ( example: auto-find the content they need to aid their learning, auto-convert the information to suit individual style) then bring it on. I shall keep the goodies of Web 2.0 and enrich the student experience with whatever comes next in this direction.

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